Mid-term and Finals

Introduction to Midterm and Final Projects

In your midterm and final projects, you will use the skills taught in class to explore and analyze a planning or policy issue of your choice. Your issue should have a spatial component that GIS can help you explore, display and analyze. Most students focus on one issue for both projects. The midterm requires you to explore and describe the project area and pertinent demographics while the final concentrates on a deeper analysis of the issue.

You are required to turn in a proposal for midterm and final projects on Friday of Week 4.

Midterm Weekend Office Hours:


Midterm Assignment: Project Area Exploration and Working with Demographic Data

The midterm allows you to apply the skills you’ve learned in the tutorial and lab exercises to investigate issues in a spatial context. In general, the midterm requires you to acquire geographic and attribute data, assemble the data using  ArcMap and produce several layouts that display your interests. You must work independently but are welcome to share datasets with students with similar interests. For example, two students may analyze the City of Carson for their midterms. Then for the final project, one student may look at transportation issues, while the other analyzes social services.

During the 6th week of class you are required to make a brief presentation in which you present your maps and describe the planning or policy issue. As with other assignments, you will upload your Powerpoint document onto your web page.

Data Acquisition
First, select an issue and/or geographic area that you are interested in examining spatially. Consider what type of geographic scale is appropriate for addressing the questions that interest you. For instance, a neighborhood analysis could use block group level data. An analysis of an entire region of Los Angeles County could use tract level data.

Next, you will need to acquire geographic and attribute data which will help you investigate the issues and geographic area you are interested in. You will need to review the layout requirements below in order to be sure you acquire data that is needed to create the required layouts. You may choose to only use census-based data for the midterm, although you may also use other data sources (you will be required to use “original” data for the final).
You can acquire both geographic and attribute data from ESRI. In addition, you may acquire this data from other sources, including Internet sources listed on the links page.

Data Assembly
After acquiring the data for your midterm, you should assemble it into an ArcMap project. Review the layout requirements below for creating the required layouts. Here are a few helpful hints as you proceed:

  • File Size. Size down large geographic and attribute files to the size you need. Try not to work with files that are extremely large.
  • File Management. Use naming conventions for your files and directories that are systematic and logical to you.
  • Backup your Project. Create backup copies of your work, either on your computer and/or a flash drive.
  • Create Separate Map Files for Each of Your Layouts. This will help to keep you organized.

Midterm Requirements
A Powerpoint presentation that briefly introduces the planning or policy issue that you have chosen and includes between four and eight different layouts using at least six of the skills described below.Each layout should be somewhat distinct and should display your data in a clear and uncluttered way. In addition, each layout should include necessary titles, your name, a scale bar, a north arrow and a legend. You are required to meet at least six of the following requirements (6 requirements altogether, not 6 requirements per layout; one layout can use more than one requirement):

  1. Inset map. Small map indicating the location of your project within a larger area.
  2. Point or line graduated symbol. Displaying of points or lines using symbols that increase proportionally (or change color) depending on your data values. For instance, points with low values could be displayed with small symbols and points with high values could be displayed with large symbols (merely graduated colored polygon layers will not be enough).
  3. Aggregating attribute fields. Combining attribute fields in ArcMap or Excel to create a new attribute. Text at the bottom of the layout or in the write-up should indicate how the aggregated field was derived, such as: “NWHite=Hispanic+Black+Amind+OtherAPI”, this is not to be confused with creating an index, below.
  4. Creating indices. Calculating and displaying new values that result from the calculation of two or more existing variables to create a new variable that describes a phenomenon. You are free to invent and calculate new indices in ArcMap or Excel, or re-invent established indices such as “transit dependency”, “racial heterogeneity”, “intact families”, and “needy”. Text at the bottom of the layout should indicate how the index was derived including what weights were assigned to each of the variables. Combining all of the age groups 65 or older to create a new variable “seniors” is not an index but an aggregation of attribute fields. See above.
  5. Attribute sub-sets selections. Geographic boundaries which have been selected out of a larger shapefile using Select By Attributes in order to create a smaller shapefile from a larger one. For instance, a major highway theme could have been created from a streets file. Text at the bottom of the layout should indicate how the new shapefile was derived, such as “Majorhwys was derived by Querying la_streets for CFCC=A11 and A31 and exporting data to a new layer”.
  6. Boundary sub-sets selections. Geographic boundaries which have been selected out of a larger shapefile using Select by Location in order to create a smaller shapefile. For instance, a layer with census tracts for Pasadena could have been created from the census tract file for LA County. Text at the bottom of the layout should indicate how the new shapefile was derived, such as “Tracts_pas was derived by selecting tracts in the View from latracts and converting to shapefile”.
  7. Distance. Using the measurement tool to measure from two significant points or boundaries. You could then use ArcGIS graphics tools to draw a line from two points to show the distance. This is distinct from using buffers to symbolize distance.
  8. Buffering. Creating a buffer of specific distance(s) that demonstrate relationships between your themes. Consider displaying buffers as an outline or with a hatched or semi-transparent fill pattern. Whenever possible, clip buffers to the coastline.
  9. Geoprocessing. Creating and modifying layers using geoprocessing functions such as dissolving a theme based on attributes, clipping one theme based on another, etc.
  10. Geocoding. Assigning geographic locations to attribute data, such as mapping the locations of hospitals in an area using addresses.
  11. Custom shapefile creation.  Generate your own custom data by creating your own shapefile by “drawing” points, lines, or polygons on the map.  Optionally, you can also import a Google My Maps layer as a KML file into ArcMap to fulfill this “skill”.
  12. OTHER:  Are you using other geoprecessing tools not mentioned here?  Or are you performing some tasks that you think are applicable to be counted as valid “skills” towards your project?  Consult with me to see if it may be ok.

In addition, all layouts should experiment with various shading and symbology methods. Layouts should be formatted for presentation, including proper layers and labels. For instance, percentages such as “.051-.083” should display on the map as “5%-8%”. Maps should explore various ways of representation and should not use one boundary file to display five different attributes.

Lastly, you should include a slide that shows the skills that you used or subtlely document the skills on each layout.

Effective graphical representation of data seeks to inform an audience in a clear, simplistic manner. Your layouts will be evaluated on the basis of how well you convey fairly complex data into graphical forms that are both aesthetically pleasing and informative.

Final Assignment: Spatial Analysis of a Current Policy or Planning Issue

The purpose of the midterm is to test your advanced mapping skills. The final project challenges you to effectively apply mapping and data management skills to spatially analyze a planning or policy issue.

Please plan ahead and submit a final project proposal if your topic changes from your midterm.

Final Requirements
Organize your final project around the planning or policy issue that you will present to the class using a Powerpoint presentation. For the final, you will go more into depth about the planning or policy issue. You are required to create and display a minimum of eight layouts using 10 different skills – THREE are required and six you may choose.

You are required to meet the following THREE requirements:

  • Modeling. (at least one is required) Creating a model can automate data manipulation. The model diagram should be converted into a jpg by making a screenshot of it after you run it. Include the jpg at the end of the presentation in the notes section or following the layout – whichever makes most sense.
  • Measurement/Analysis. (at least one is required) To integrate some measure of distance you could create a buffer and/or concentric zones, or you could display elements according to their distance from a central feature. You could also use the graphics features of the software to add lines or circles which display distance or proximity on your map. Using nearest neighbor functions from ArcToolBox also qualifies. 
  • Original data. (at least one is required) One of the ten elements of your project should be an original map layer. By ‘original’ we mean a layer that is not a GIS ready dataset, created using data from various sources such as an agency you are working with, an internet source or your independent research. You will be required to turn this original data into map layers through processes such as geocoding, drawing new shapefiles using satellite imagery, rendering x,y data, etc.

For the remaining six requirements you may choose from the following and/or incorporate some of the skills listed above for the midterm:

  • Extracting information from a buffer.
  • Charts, images. Charts or pictures can make a unique contribution to explaining your layout and issue. Charts can be made in ArcMap or other programs such as Excel.
  • Hotspot Analysis (Spatial Analyst)
  • Network Analysis (Network Analyst)
  • 3-D Modeling
  • Spatial Statistics
  • Time based analysis
  • Google Maps API
  • Google Fusion Tables

Again, each layout should be somewhat distinct and should display your data in a clear and uncluttered way. You should also vary your types of data elements (as possible) so that your project does not use only one type of data. Also, every data element should make some contribution to your project. Basically, don’t add non-informative background layers in order to meet the requirements. Also, you should vary your layouts as much as possible, so you shouldn’t have layouts that look exactly the same (e.g., 5 maps of LA county tracts in graduated color with only a change of the fields displayed will not be satisfactory). And finally, each layout should include necessary titles, your name, a scale bar, a north arrow and a legend.

Additional Requirements

  1. Final project proposal
    If your final topic has changed from your midterm, you must submit a final project proposal by the  end of the 8th week.
  2. PowerPoint Presentation
    Each student will present their project in class. In most cases, 8-12 exported images (jpegs) of layouts should be sufficient for the oral presentation. Each Powerpoint slide will should make a unique contribution to answering your planning or policy issue. Make sure that your layouts are free of clutter and confusing colors or symbols. Keep captions and titles clear and direct. At least one map should be a descriptive map that provides a general overview of your study area. Your additional layouts should highlight for us the major points you want us to review when evaluating your map-making skills. Your project should be posted to your web page prior to your presentation.
  3. Final BLOG write-up
    The final project requires a write up in the class blog that incorporates your layouts.Your blog write up should contain:

    1. a brief introduction of your planning or policy issue
    2. references to relevant literature where applicable
    3. a description of each layout
    4. explanation of the formulation of your research
    5. sources of your geographic and attribute data
    6. methodologies used to derive any indices or aggregated fields
    7. a conclusion that summarizes your findings, evaluates the usefulness of using GIS to analyze your type of issue, and presents your recommendations and/or solutions on the issue of analysis
    8. You may also comment on the process of attaining and/or manipulating data and any other problems or difficulties you may have encountered
    9. explain briefly the GIS methodologies you used, e.g. “high poverty tracts were selected through a table query using the following formula: persons in poverty/tract population>0.25, and converted to a shapefile.”

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